Healthcare.gov goes live: terrific site on health coverage options

This week the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) introduced Healthcare.gov, a consumer information website mandated by the Affordable Care Act (aka the health reform bill). A video of the introduction meeting is here.

The site is fabulous; HHS Chief Technical Officer rightly says that the best praise they’ve gotten is that it doesn’t look like a government website. No KIDDING -

As someone who’s worked in web design, I can say this is a top-notch consumer experience, well thought out and well implemented. It will help you explore the health insurance options available for your situation in your state.They’ve thought out user types, scenarios, and pathways, and in the best-practice spirit of continuous improvement, the site frequently lets you click on whether you like each page.

And, incredibly, the whole thing was put together in 90 days. Ninety days!

I’ll be trying it, because my own little bootstrapping business (epatientdave.com) is in a transition period – I’m currently on COBRA and will be considering whether to incorporate in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. We’ll see how my info search goes. Update: see comments – I began my search.)

To me it looks like this site is big news. As Todd says in the intro video, the transparency of choices will surely (I think) lead insurers to offer simpler, clearer projects, because that’s what people like.

And I love the idea of healthcare becoming more consumer-centered. Both the medical aspect and the money aspect. Because patient empowerment means patients are empowered to get what they want. And that’s much easier when you can clearly see what your options are.

Tell friends.

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9 Responses to “Healthcare.gov goes live: terrific site on health coverage options”

  1. Hm, my experience:

    It asks me if I’m a family with children, a healthy individual, pregnant woman, etc. No; my wife and I are a couple without children.

    Re age and medical conditions, it says “answer these questions separately for each person needing coverage” but there’s no way to answer more than once (nor even to say how many people are in the household).

    It asks if it’s difficult for us to afford insurance. Given the cost spiral it’s hard to imagine that most people wouldn’t answer “Duh.” :–)

    Wow, the list of options includes local clinics that offer free or reduced-care services. UNBELIEVABLE – it links to a page that actually has useful info! HHS’s Health Resources & Services Administration (I’d never even heard of them), with a MAP showing 14 places within a difference I’d gladly drive to for affordable care. (This presumes I have a car, but three are in my town.)

    I *love* that this was done by sensibly tying the new website to existing data! Heck, a lot of private companies won’t even do this, let alone a bureaucratic agency.

    btw, 100% of this has been easy to navigate so far.

    Then, when I arrive at the page with my local plans, there are three clear tiers of info:

    1. Cautions about the “Three A” problems: Affordability, Availability, Adequacy. Each has a link “This will change – learn more.”

    2. The state’s own insurance dept website. (That website reminds me of what a government site usually looks like!)

    3. The list of companies offering plans in my area.

    This is STARTING to look like shopping at Best Buy or Amazon: I find myself wanting to click something like “Compare this,” “Put in shopping cart,” “Remember for later,” etc.

    AND, I find myself looking for Amazon-style “523 of 700 customers like this” or “Average rating 3.5 stars.”

    THIS SITE WILL KICK BUTT WHEN I CAN LOOK HERE AND TELL WHETHER A COMPANY SUCKS.

    And how many consumer complaints there have been. And disputed claims.

    Pardon me, but that’s true. And, of course, I don’t just want to know who sucks, I want to know who’s a star.

    btw, info of that sort does exist on the “Compare Care Quality” tab, which links to the HHS Hospital Compare website that’s been discussed lately. (That, btw, is another website that looks like a government website. But the page that links to it says prominently, “This tool will improve over time.”

    And that’s believable, because this whole site was put together in 90 days. That’s modern.

    === Returning to the comparison shopping info – I can’t yet display pricing (that’s October 2010), but at least I can see who the companies are. It has their phone number and links to whatever info the company provided, e.g “Check for your doctor.” (In one case it says “Correct link not provided”! Wonder what that means – I presume it’s a broken URL.)

    Pretty cool. Love it.

  2. ePatientDave says:

    I've started using Healthcare.gov for my own insurance search. See post & my update in comment: http://bit.ly/cVycRC

  3. James says:

    I found a typo (spelled health as helath) and then discovered that there is no public contact info anywhere I could find to report a need for an edit.

    So, the error will remain I guess. Maybe if I post it on a blog someone from HHS will see the post and correct their page. Hey folks, how about a “contact us” page with a web form?

    The typo:

    Helath Plus V
    Scott & White Health Plan

    Located at:

    http://finder.healthcare.gov/more_info/ihi_issuer?age=3&audience=cond&issuer_id=664&medical_condition=y&no_afford=y&situation=need&state=TX&zip=78758

    • Hey James, thanks – indeed let’s hope real live humans are listening!

      In this instance, I’ll be pesos to pebbles that the typo is in the insurer’s data, which HHS merely pulls over, probably in real time. So the fix probably needs to be done by the insurer.

      BUT, it would be sensible for them to have a feedback / contact link, as you say – in the spirit of open government.

      We shall see. :)

    • p.s. Also in the spirit of citizen *participation* in open government, thanks for taking the time to try to tip them off, and for taking even more time to come here. Open won’t work without participation.

  4. James says:

    It is something I notice a lot, perhaps because of my work. For fun, look at media sites and then try to see if you can find any way to inform them of a factual error in a story. Most sites have no way for the public to contact them.

    The same is also true for most TV and radio news reports. You can’t get a correction to the reporter or their editor unless your desire to do so borders on an Ahab-like obsession.

    One large games software site (I won’t name them) literally had no way to contact them if you had a problem with a transaction (I did).

    Websites without actual participant feedback loops are just so Web 1.0 these days… ;-)

    Oh, are you doing any work with Medicaid programs? I read your stuff and wondered if you looked at medicaid and how the e-patient movement could fit in.

    • Sorry for the delay, James. What do you mean by us doing any work with Medicaid?

      • Dave:

        I work in the Texas Medicaid program and part of my job is to look into HIT and the use of social media in health care. Kick me an email at: james.cooley (at) hhsc.state.tx.us and we can visit a bit on it. Replace the (at) with an @ and you will reach me (darn spammer bots look for email addresses).

        I hoped to get your ideas on how large payers (like Medicaid) might learn from your experiences. For instance, I read with interest your piece a while back on the limitations of claims-based information to populate an EHR. That info was shared with the folks working on our own claims-based system to try to avoid the same pitfalls.

        Regards,

        James

        P.S. I think the post just before mine is from a spammer. I also have a blog and have to weed out attempts by the spammers to post.

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